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14th February 1999
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Anura Bandaranaike, MP, who was away from 
the Wayamba election campaign, joined a UNP 
protest rally in Kurunegala town on Friday 
along with Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, 
Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and 
General Secretary Gamini Atukorale. 

Pic. by J. Weerasekera
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Demining of Jaffna undermined

Latest dispute over map, progress slow, says UN expert 

By Chris Kamalendran
A five million dollar (Rs. 325,000 million) United Nations Programme to clear landmines in the Jaffna Peninsula has been stalled again, this time over a reported refusal by the Ministry of Defence to make available a map to experts.

"Last month a map detailing the areas where mines have been laid in the peninsula was given to be used to carry out a feasibility study programme. It has now been withdrawn and we have been called up to look for one in the private sector," UNDP landmine action co-ordinator David Taylor told The Sunday Times.

This has held up mine clearing operations by UN experts who were to use land mine detectors and sniffer dogs for the task. Since the land mine clearing project began an year ago, only some 30 mines had been cleared, he said.

"If the casualty rates continue, one day Jaffna will have the highest number of landmine casualties in the world compared to the population in the peninsula," Mr. Taylor said.

Earlier, the land mine clearing programme was stalled by the Defence Ministry's refusal to allow the executing agency, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), to establish a radio link between Jaffna and Colombo.

Though this matter has been resolved, there were several other issues, some sensitive, that have to be sorted out, he said.

Mr. Taylor, a former officer in the British Army, said 13 civilian landmine casualties were brought to Jaffna hospital in December.

He said the LTTE had given a verbal assurance to the UNHCR officials that it would not re-lay mines in areas where mines are cleared.

Claims peace delegation

LTTE says sorry

The LTTE has expressed regret about the bombing of places of religious worship in the south and assured a high-powered religious delegation that steps would be taken to ensure that similar incidents do not take place in the future.

An LTTE delegation led by political wing leader Thamil Chelvam and deputy military wing leader Karikalan gave the assurance when they met representatives of the Samastha Lanka Pevidi Sanvidanaya which visited the Mannar and Vavuniya districts last week.

The religious delegation which included Prof. Kamburugamuwe Vajira Thera, Advisor to the Buddha Sasana Ministry, Ven. Athuraliye Indaratna Thera, Bishop Kenneth Fernando and Bishop Malcolm Ranjith had brought up the issue of the attacks of places of religious worship including the attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa.

The LTTE representatives had told the visiting delegation that many places of worship had been destroyed in the North and East as well, but that they were sorry for the incidents mentioned by the delegation.

The delegation had pointed out that despite the unhappy occurrences including the Sri Maha Bodhi and Dalada Maligawa attacks, a majority of the Buddhist clergy and the people in the south want a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

At a news conference held in Colombo the delegation denied any government backing for their visit, but acknowledged that the Defence Ministry had given clearance to visit LTTE-controlled areas.

However the invitations for the news conference was sent out by the Government Information Department.

The members who visited the north are scheduled to bring to the notice of the Government the difficulties faced by the civilians in the uncleared areas.

Prof. Tissa Vitharana, peace activist and advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology, who was in the delegation said that the civilians pointed out that there were unfair restrictions on them. Among them was the ban on transporting cadjan for roofing purposes.

Despite repeated Government denials that the food situation was satisfactory in the LTTE-controlled areas, Prof. Vitharana said they felt there were food shortages in the region and that medical and education facilities were also lacking.

The LTTE representatives had reiterated their leader Prabhakaran's position that they were willing to have a negotiated settlement to end the ethnic conflict.

The visiting delegation said that they would continue their efforts to bridge the gap between the south and north as they felt that majority of the people were in favour of a peaceful settlement to the conflict.

Presidential diversion costs Rs. 21 million

AirLanka will fork out US dollars 300,000 (Rs. 21 million) for a special charter flight from Frankfurt to Colombo to bring passengers who have made bookings on their regular schedule.

The reason - the A 340 Airbus which usually flies this sector was diverted yesterday to Montego Bay, Jamaica to bring back President Chandrika Kumaratunga and her entourage. President Kumaratunga, Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar and party were in Jamaica to attend the G 15 Economic summit.

The special presidential flight is said to be the first trans-Atlantic trip by an AirLanka airbus.

Ranil admits poll malpractices

Says mea culpa for past misdeeds

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The main opposition UNP in a rare act of self criticism has admitted election malpractices during its regime at the 1981 District Development council elections in Jaffna and the 1982 referendum.

Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe told a joint meeting of the UNP parliamentary group and the working committee that if any party was to tread the path of democracy there had to be a self critical attitude. 

He said the UNP should accept responsibility for two main election-related charges levelled against it malpractices at the Jaffna DDC polls and the referendum to extend the life of parliament in 1982.

UNP sources said the party would support any government move to take action against those responsible for election malpractices at the 1981 and 1982 polls.

Meanwhile, the party is to file 16 more election petitions and continue its agitation against what it sees as the sham and the shame of the Wayamba poll.

See also Political Column

New head for MI

Brigadier Kapila Hendavithana has been named as the new Director of Military Intelligence (DMI).

He succeeds Brigadier Sunil Tennekoon who will now become Military Secretary but continue as official military spokesman. 

Colonel Parakrama Dissanayake has been named as Commanding Officer, Military Intelligence corps and Brigadier Sunil Silva has been appointed as Commanding Officer of Signals Corps.

These appointments were made by the new Army Commander Srilal Weerasuriya.

PA allies put pressure on President

By Chamintha Thilakarathna
People's Alliance constituent parties are putting more pressure on the President to take steps to probe the alleged large-scale malpractices at the Wayamba election.

In an independence day message, the President said stern action would be taken against unscrupulous people even if they were found in her own camp. But ten days after that pledge, the words have yet to be translated into action. 

The Communist Party saying it was deeply disturbed by what happened at Wayamba has called on the President to take urgent steps to appoint a committee to probe the malpractices and violence. 

United Lalith Front leader Srimani Athulathmudali said her party would not only pressurise the President to appoint the probe committee soon but also demand that action be taken against the offenders even if they turn out to be ministers.

Another constituent party, the LSSP, has also expressed concern over the Wayamba violence while its maverick member Vasudeva Nanayakkara has spoken out in stronger terms.

Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera told a media briefing that the committee would be appointed shortly. But most ministers are known to be unaware whom the president would appoint to the committee. 

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